Bhakti Foster-Purvine, an Integral Yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon, was introduced to Families for Children (FFC) by Swami Divyananda 15 years ago. Located in Coimbatore, South India, FFC is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that exists to fulfill the needs of children and young adults with physical and/or mental disabilities. By providing housing, education, special medical care and vocational training, FFC helps these individuals to reach their full potential and live with dignity in a loving environment. FCC fosters over 450 children in homes that are owned by FFC. FFC has a large Special Care Center for children who are mentally and or physically handicapped. Excellent locally hired Special Educational teachers are employed to care for these children.
Over the past 13 years I’ve been traveling to India leading Yoga groups on tours and also serving FFC. I fell in love with the children there and have been hooked ever since. On my first trip, in the back of a bus, Shanti Om Yoga was born—a studio I opened and ran in Staunton, Virginia for six years and now run in Portland, Oregon. Shanti Om has been supporting FFC by selling their Yoga mat bags that are made out of recycled saris and handmade by a woman’s co-op there on the grounds of the orphanage.
Swami Satchidananda has been my guide through it all and for my whole Yoga life. I was told that he played a part in FFC getting started, which made my experience there even more special. The orphanage is unique in that they only take special needs children, many who are turned away from other orphanages. FFC raises the children and many of the children stay and work there for their whole lives.
For years, I would take my tour groups for one or two days to FFC to tour the orphanage, deliver toys and pick up Yoga mat bags to bring back to the USA. About three years ago, I started making seva (selfless service) a part of the tour. Now when we visit, we spend four to five days working at the orphanage doing all sorts of things ranging from massage to feeding the children as FFC is very understaffed. While it may not seem like our groups spend a lot of time there, coming in with fresh energy is very healing for these children, and many of my students end up sponsoring a child and even returning to the orphanage because they too fall in love.
During my 2018 trip to India and to FFC, I was traveling alone and wanted to do something special with some of the kids. I delivered a batch of dolls donated by Dollies Making a Difference and I also thought, what could be better than taking them to the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) in Chettipalayam? So we loaded eight to ten children up in a bus and went. The kids were so impressed not only the beauty of the LOTUS, but also with Swami Satchidananda’s message, “Truth is One, Paths are Many.” They were so respectful and excited to learn about Gurudev’s teachings. After the tour of LOTUS, we all had ice cream at the café there. The orphanage is not far from the LOTUS, so my hope is that they may regularly visit and receive the peaceful and healing spirit that permeates there.
About the Author:
Bhakti Foster-Purvine is an Integral Yoga teacher. She has spent time in India practicing, teaching, and learning Yoga traditions, and has led Yoga Retreats to India, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. In addition, Bhakti founded and taught at her own yoga studio for over 6 years. She is the owner of Shanti Om Yoga in St. Johns Portland. Bhakti is a Certified Ayurveda Wellness Counselor at the 500 hour level and is working towards Practitioner at the 1600 hour level. She incorporates Ayurveda in her own life practices as well as her Yoga classes. She offers Ayurveda consultations and treatments at the Shanti Annex.